AURORA — Colorado will be the first state in the country to regulate emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as part of new air quality rules for the state’s booming oil and gas industry that were finalized on Sunday afternoon.
Operators of wells across the state will also have to abide by stricter leak detection requirements under the new rule, which survived the five-day rule-making process mostly in tact, despite efforts by the industry’s main trade group to change it …
… “It has been an unbelievable amount of work,” said Matt Sura, an environmental attorney who works with community organizations. Sura’s face was one of the group of faces this year that seemed to appear wherever Coloradans gathered to talk about ozone, brown cloud, greenhouse gases and volatile compounds. “This is a victory for everyone, for the people in the room — the industry representatives and the environmentalists — but also for the activists in the communities across the state,” he said. “I think this demonstrates that there’s a real role for the grassroots in these kinds of proceedings, which affect everyday life” …
… Sara Barwinski, a member of the community group Weld Air and Water who testified before the commission, said it’s a great day for the residents of Colorado’s oil-and gas-producing areas. “The new regulations will significantly reduce air pollution that causes ground-level ozone and those hazardous pollutants that are also known to cause impacts to public health,” she said in a news release.
Bob Arrington, of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said the commission’s action is only a first step.
“We believe the the sate should continue to find ways to reduce the health risks to people living near oil and gas facilities,” he said …
Matt Sura, attorney for the citizens coalition (GVCA, Western Colorado Congress, Western Slope Conservation Center, Citizens for Clean Air, Weld Air and Water and Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley), reported this afternoon:
“The Commission has passed new air quality rules. They are almost exactly as proposed [see below].
“They also passed a revised statement of basis and purpose. They are including our concerns about oil and gas development within ¼ mile of homes. They are encouraging more frequent inspections and faster response and repair times. They have also included directing staff to try to get the reports online for more transparency. So we did not get any of our requests in the rule but they were all mentioned in the statement of basis and purpose.
“The statement of basis and purpose does help tee up future rulemaking and directing staff to look at additional protections, but does not have a regulatory effect.
“That being said, Colorado now has just adopted a great new air quality rule!
THANK YOU again to Matt Sura and everyone who participated in the citizens coalition. You all know who you are. Our Western Slope coalition was absolutely brilliant in their presentations on Friday afternoon. OMG — they drove a truck through the EPAC Coalition’s rosy air quality picture. I was so proud of everyone.
Here’s how the individual motions played out at the hearing today.
- Motion to apply regulations only to the non-attainment area FAILED 2-7.
[The West Slope speakers and witnesses totally own this victory – we/they were all awesome!]
- Motion to require existing glycol dehydrators to control emissions over two tons per year, even if homes are built close to the glycol dehydrator PASSED 8-1.
- The Commission DEFEATED by a 5-4 vote a motion to strike all references to regulating hydrocarbons.
- Motion to increase inspections near homes was DEFEATED 2-7.
[I believe this will be revisited in the not-too-distant future.]
- Motion to speed up times for implementation of LDAR program six months PASSED 5-4. Now it will have to be implemented before the 2015 ozone season.
- Motion that NO INSPECTIONS would be required at all for the smallest operations FAILED 3-6.
- WPX’s Step Down proposal (allowing operators to skip LDAR inspections if they are finding very few leaks) WAS NOT INTRODUCED. However this was put in the statement of basis and purpose that staff investigates the issue.
Thank you to each and every human being on the 12-member Air Quality Control Commission. You saw through all the crap the industry threw at you and you listened to the people. You did your job well. You made the decision to protect public health over the corporations’ bottom line. All Coloradans will begin to breathe better for it.
Air quality regulations as proposed
Regulation Number 3, Parts A, B, and C and Appendix A to simplify emissions reporting and permitting requirements, including removing the “catchall” provisions and removing the crude oil storage tank permit exemptions. These revisions support the Air Pollution Control Division’s proposal to fully adopt NSPS OOOO.
Regulation Number 6, Part A to fully incorporate by reference NSPS OOOO, including recent amendments and the provisions not incorporated during the partial adoption (natural gas well green completion provisions and requirements for affected facilities below current reporting and permitting thresholds).
Regulation Number 7 to establish state-only volatile organic compound (VOC) and other hydrocarbon emission control requirements for oil and natural gas operations. These requirements include: 1) enhancing the existing control program for storage tanks; 2) ensuring that emissions from controlled storage tanks are captured and routed to the control device; 3) conducting leak detection and repair programs for compressor stations and well production facilities; 4) installing auto-igniters on flare devices throughout the state; 5) requiring the use of low bleed and no-bleed pneumatic devices; 6) requiring that the gas stream at well production facilities be connected to a pipeline or routed to a control device; 7) lowering the threshold for controlling glycol dehydrators; and 8) establishing requirements to minimize emissions from well maintenance and liquids unloading.